52Frames – 2021-33 – Night photography

Ideally, for the “Night photography” theme, I would have gone on a walk in the city by night and tried to get a few shots. That didn’t happen, so I took the lazy option of putting the tripod on the balcony and shoot some random starry sky instead. There was a nice little cloud around – and it was going faster than the star, so I kept it because I quite liked the effect on the picture! No, it’s not a UFO ๐Ÿ™‚ And it technically counts as Astrophotography, which is the extra credit, so… there’s that!

Scavenger Hunt #32 – Grid

Grid of 3x3 images with various pictures of wooden manikins in various situations.

For the 32nd Scavenger Hunt, I had decided (even before the Hunt words were public!) to try to make a series with wooden manikins. And it worked out well, because there was an extra constraint on this Hunt: all the pictures had to be square, and the 10th was supposed to be a grid of the 9 other pictures. I like the square format, and I tend to crop in postprocessing rather than in camera, so this wasn’t much of a constraint for me – and since I had decided on a unifying theme already, this played out nicely!

I didn’t really shoot the images to “fit” a grid or a narrative (one constraint at a time ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), but I was still fairly intentional in placing the pictures. The middle one (Denim) was the only one where I had the two manikins, so it needed to be in the middle. My idea for the grid was that the other pictures would represent some dreams they would be having while sleeping – and it kind of feels that these are weird enough to be believable dreams ๐Ÿ˜‰ I placed the Spaghetti and the Hairbrush on opposite sides because they were both representing hair-related topics; and the other 6 I placed by trying to have some kind of directing line to the center.

And that’s it – this concludes the 32th Scavenger Hunt – which resulted in my favorite set ever in all the sets I submitted ๐Ÿ™‚

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Grid album.

52Frames – 2021-32 – Line from a Song

A couple of wooden manikins dancing. They are shown three times in the image (past, present, future; past and future are smaller and fainter); a banner of hearts at the bottom of the image symbolizes the passing of time.

The theme for this week’s 52Frames is a (as far as I remember) yearly favorite (I’ve done it at least once in the past ๐Ÿ™‚ ) – “Line from a Song”. There’s technically a generator (and the associated “extra credit” if you take the first sentence from the generator), but this time around I was listening to Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me to the End of Love, and I thought I could do something neat with that. I pretty much had the image in my mind already; I’m not sure it completely matches what I envisioned, but I think it’s actually pretty close.

This picture is a composite of four photographies – the three of the manikins dancing, and the banner (which I made with paper and a marker ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). It took me a while to get “good enough” image cutting (I just ordered a green screen. This should help future endeavors. Hopefully.), and then I played with opacities and whatnot to finally get the image above.

Scavenger Hunt #32 – Hairbrush

Wooden manikin looking at a hairbrush, looking puzzled.

For the 32nd Scavenger Hunt, I had decided (even before the Hunt words were public!) to try to make a series with wooden manikins. Given the distinct lack of hair on wooden manikins, this made the whole concept of a hairbrush confusing… which is literally the theme I went to for this picture.

I took the shots of the composite on a week-end morning before my shower, which you can see with the use of my superb teal bathrobe ๐Ÿ˜‰

Hand holding a hairbrush in front of bathroom tiles.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/6.3
Exposure time1/6 s
ISO800
Wooden manikin looking puzzled, standing in front of bathroom tiles.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/16
Exposure time2 s
ISO400

Is that mannikin standing on a piano stool standing on another stool? You bet it is. Was my bathroom full of photo material for a few hours? You bet it was. (It’s fine, we have two ๐Ÿ˜› ) Especially since this composite turned out to be particularly tricky. I had not realized how very important it was for the hand of the manikin and the hairbrush to have “compatible” angles – and I realized my mistake after having worked quite a lot on the first version of this image. For reference, this is the first version:

Bad composite of a wooden manikin holding a hairbrush in a way that's not remotely realistic.

I was, to put it mildly, quite dismayed. (The words “I ABSOLUTELY HATE THAT PICTURE” were definitely uttered in multiple places.) But oh well – back to the shooting studio, I got way more careful with my angles, and I finally got something that worked better. I’m still not entirely happy with it: in particular, I have the impression that the difference in size between the brush and the manikin shows in the fact the brush seems sharper – I tried to correct it, I don’t think I fully managed it. And speaking of sharpness, the sharpness of the hand is debatable too – the DOF is probably a bit off / too shallow (Clearly, my bathroom is not large enough ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

But I did manage to get what I wanted with the picture, which is what matters! I’m happy I stuck with it and that I made the effort of reshooting, because it was well worth it. Note that extracting the brush hair was a pain, but I think I did well there. I’m also happy with the addition of the question mark: I would have liked it if hadn’t felt necessary, but “interrogative” is a fairly hard body language to make work without ambiguity – so I think this makes the intention clear without being incredibly obtrusive.

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Hairbrush album.

Scavenger Hunt #32 – Spaghetti

Wooden manikin touching her hair made of cooked spaghetti.

For the 32nd Scavenger Hunt, I had decided (even before the Hunt words were public!) to try to make a series with wooden manikins. My Spaghetti idea comes straight out of Day of the Tentacle – if you have played it, you probably remember the reference; if you haven’t, you really should ๐Ÿ™‚

I was hoping for a slightly more dramatic pile of spaghetti, but gravity was already hard enough on me for this one! I didn’t have too many takes for this one – but most of the takes I had were re-posed between to takes because the spaghetti kept falling down.

Wooden manikin touching her hair made of cooked spaghetti.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/6.3
Exposure time1/50 s
ISO800

In the end, that’s the picture I chose – and that was the last picture I shot for this Hunt – I was a bit afraid of staining my manikin (which would have made later shots more complicated) – but that actually didn’t happen, she still looks as new ๐Ÿ™‚ And the edits were very straightforward there – except for the fact that I need to clean my camera so that I don’t have a gazillion spots to edit away ๐Ÿ˜‰

The final image doesn’t quite fit my initial vision (because gravity’s hard): my plan was for a much larger, somewhat conical, pile of spaghetti hair. But the pose ended up working very well, and it looks fairly natural, which I like a lot! The blue background was also lucky, but a good call: I think it works well too. And I’m very happy with the daylight coming from the top of the image – this looks very pretty.

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Spaghetti album.

Scavenger Hunt #32 – Denim

Pair of manikins, seemingly sleeping, tucked each in the pockets of a pair of jeans, using folded tissues as pillows.

For the 32nd Scavenger Hunt, I had decided (even before the Hunt words were public!) to try to make a series with wooden manikins. Denim was one of the words for which I had little to no idea. I considered texturing a manikin in denim, and making small denim clothes for them, which would require far more skill than I have for them to look remotely okay – I have friends who I’m sure could have helped, but this felt a bit overkill.

When in lack of inspiration, I sometimes often turn to Google Images – a few well chosen words often help unlocking ideas or concepts. In that specific case, it came almost empty… except for a picture of a manikin hidden in someone’s jeans pocket. I started exploring around that idea, looking whether my manikins actually did fit in a jeans pocket, and what I could do with that.

I finally landed on the idea of “actually, this looks pretty cosy – maybe they sleep in jean pockets at night!” A few more experiments, getting on of Pierre’s jeans instead of mine (I have decently sized pockets because I wear men jeans, but Pierre is thinner than I am, which worked better for the picture ๐Ÿ˜‰ ), a bit of posing the manikins in sleep-like positions, adding some tissues for the pillows, and tada! a picture!

Pair of manikins, seemingly sleeping, tucked each in the pockets of a pair of jeans, using folded tissues as pillows.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/6.3
Exposure time1/25 s
ISO1600

The edit for this one was pretty straightforward – removing the wood texture of the table, a few stray fibers that were distracting, and color toning.

I’m a bit on the fence on my decision to have that image that dark; on the one hand, I wanted to give the impression of a dark night/room; on the other hand, I wonder if maybe I didn’t overdo it a bit; and the shadows are probably too harsh too.

Still, I’m happy with the concept and the image. I absolutely love my little pillows – I think they really help selling the picture (and they’re cute!). I also like the posing of the manikins – I think it feels realistic! And I think the idea of “night” is well conveyed by the dark blue color toning. Finally, this was a more straightforward shot than many shots in this series, which meant spending less time on it, which I appreciate ๐Ÿ˜‰

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Denim album.

Scavenger Hunt #32 – Umbrella

Wooden manikin recreating a scene from Singing in the Rain, dancing with a street lamp and an umbrella.

For the 32nd Scavenger Hunt, I had decided (even before the Hunt words were public!) to try to make a series with wooden manikins. For the “Umbrella” theme, I knew I wanted to go with a “Singing in the Rain” theme. I have actually not seen the movie (I should fix that, probably ๐Ÿ™‚ ) – but there’s a well-known image where Gene Kelly is dancing with a street lamp, under the rain, with his umbrella. Now it turns out that his umbrella is a longer, closed one; since I don’t own a non-compact umbrella, I went for an open one!

My first impulse was to try and make pictures of a “real” street lamp and to composite the manikin into it… until I glanced at my apartment plants and saw they could work very well, scale-wise, as a modern street lamp. It would look pretty artificial, for sure – but that’s also part of the whole “studio” look that I felt could work pretty well. So that was my first picture:

Wooden manikin dancing with a home garden setup containing a small lamp and some aromatic herbs.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/7.1
Exposure time1/60s
ISO800

For the rest of the image, I needed an umbrella. I recruited my husband to pose with an umbrella in our bedroom (I needed space and a dark curtain!). I had setup the light in the same approximative direction as the light coming from my “street lamp”, took a few shots (taking into account the fact that I needed both the full canopy of the umbrella and the handle), and there we go.

Man standing in a bedroom, holding an umbrella by its shaft
Man standing in a bedroom, holding an umbrella by its handle
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/4
Exposure time1/25s
ISO1600

The majority of the work was to remove the white surface below the feet and the leaves – that was surprisingly tricky! So was reconstituting the umbrella shaft – getting something that “felt” right was tough. As a last step, I added some rain – I mostly followed this tutorial: How to Add Rain to a Photo with Photoshop.

There’s a couple of things I’m not entirely satisfied with in this picture – in particular, I feel like I should have added a “road” texture on the ground; and I literally saw right now as I’m writing that post two weeks after entering the image that I had issues in the umbrella canopy too ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I also don’t know what to think about the rain – maybe I should have gone for something a bit bolder. And also added some water on my plants to sell it better ๐Ÿ™‚

That said, it is one of my favorite pictures of this round. I’m very happy with the manikin posing and, while I’m a bit skeptical on my handling of the rain, I did learn something there. I’m also very happy with the light of the composite – this was luck more than skill, I think, but it feels pretty spot on (pun… intended.) I’m also very happy I got the idea of using my plant’s light: I think it works significantly better, scale-wise, than anything I could have done with a real street lamp!

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Umbrella album.

Scavenger Hunt #32 – Lollipop

Wooden manikin holding a large "STOP / Children crossing" sign in front of a zebra crossing.

For the 32nd Scavenger Hunt, I had decided (even before the Hunt words were public!) to try to make a series with wooden manikins. My first idea was to use the manikin myself as a prop that would represent the lollipop in a selfie, but it didn’t feel right, somehow. And then I remembered that a lollipop person was a term for the person helping children cross the road – so that’s the interpretation I chose.

But first, I needed a lollipop! I made and printed a small sign. Since I don’t own a color printer, I printed it in black and white – with the idea that I’d add the color in post-processing. Then I used my extraordinary making skills to assemble the lollipop itself – using a pair of bamboo chopsticks and some tape. The lollipop holds on the manikin’s hand with some blu tack.

Wooden manikin holding a large "STOP / Children crossing" sign in front of black fabric background.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/11
Exposure time1/60 s
ISO320

Then I also needed a zebra – turns out, it’s not too much of a problem to find one.

Quiet street with a visible zebra crossing and a restaurant terrasse.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/11
Exposure time1/80 s
ISO100

I first prepared the manikin – removing the background, added color to the sign, also added color to the torso to simulate a flashy vest. Then I added it to the other image, and I started working on making the composite work somehow. I played around with this: How To Make Realistic Shadows in Photoshop and it took me several attempts before getting the final result.

This is not my finest work – I took care of taking the pictures with the same angles with regards to the sun and so on, but the light on the balcony and the light on the street downstairs is actually quite different, which means that the composite feels wrong. But I’m not unhappy with the work I did on the shadow – and for sure I learnt a lot there. Making the sign was also fun, and worked significantly better than I expected! All in all, this is the picture I consider the weakest I entered for this Hunt, but I’m still happy with what I managed to do. And next time I’ll make the light work better for my purpose ๐Ÿ™‚

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Lollipop album.

Scavenger Hunt #32 – Lamp

Wooden manikin with a head replaced by a drawn lamp head, taking the place of the "I" in a well-known animation studio logo.

For the 32nd Scavenger Hunt, I had decided (even before the Hunt words were public!) to try to make a series with wooden manikins. For Lamp, I thought it’d be nice to do something around the most famous animated lamp there is – and I decided to make my manikin cosplay for it! The major difficulty was to pose him in a way close enough from the lamp’s posture. But then, obviously it wasn’t a stable position, so I had to add some tape on his feet to make it stand still.

Wooden manikin squatting/slouching in front of a white wall
CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA MACRO 100mm F2.8 WR
Focal length100mm
F-NumberF/7.1
Exposure time1/40 s
ISO125

This meant that I needed to get a picture of non-taped feet – which I did by taking another picture against a few cans and taping, this time, the head of the manikin ๐Ÿ˜‰

Wooden manikin slouching in front of a white wall, holding thanks to a pile of tin cans supporting its head.
CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA MACRO 100mm F2.8 WR
Focal length100mm
F-NumberF/7.1
Exposure time1/40 s
ISO320

And, for good measure, I also took a picture of the metal surface in case I needed more metal texture.

Metallic surface
CameraPentax K-1 II
Lenssmc PENTAX-D FA MACRO 100mm F2.8 WR
Focal length100mm
F-NumberF/7.1
Exposure time1/40 s
ISO640

Once I had that, the process took a bit of time, but wasn’t particularly complicated. I created the first composite of the manikin, its feet and its reflection in the metallic surface, with the blue color toning. The lamp is a few colored circles overlaid on the picture. Add some letters, shadows, light – as well as I could, and tadaaa! A picture ready for entry!

There’s actually not much I’d do differently right now with this picture. The shadows/reflections of the letters are not the most natural things in the world, but they’re not distracting to me. The “lamp” with the concentric circles is very simple, but I think it conveys the idea better than if I had gone with a fancier way of adding it. All in all, this is one of my favorite entries for this round ๐Ÿ™‚

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Lamp album.

Scavenger Hunt #32 – Leaf

Wooden manikin sitting on a leaf, levitating, seemingly zooming through the image in front of a stone wall.

For the 32nd Scavenger Hunt, I had decided (even before the Hunt words were public!) to try to make a series with wooden manikins. We had the Leaf theme some rounds ago – which yielded one of my favorite images ever from a fellow Scavenger (hi Dave!). I considered, somewhat in the same directions, to play around the Adam and Eve theme, and ended up deciding against that. Instead, I made a “leafitation” picture! It’s a pretty straightforward levitation composite. First step, background:

Stone wall and paved floor

Second step, levitating object.

Wooden manikin, sitting on a leaf, propped by a couple of plastic cans, in front of a stone wall.
CameraPentax K-1 II
LensSigma 28mm f/1.8 EX Aspherical DG DF Macro
Focal length28mm
F-NumberF/7.1
Exposure time1/8 s
ISO400

And third step, editing the composite, adding a shadow, etc. I also added a movement blur on the background to give an impression of panning.

I’m not entirely happy with this composite. Adding the shadow on the ground helped selling it, but I think I overdid it and that it’s too dark. I also have no idea how the shadow and the background blur should have played together, and I’m not convinced I made the right choices there. The manikin/wall delimitation also feels too sharp at places, especially around the leaf. I also have no idea if I did the blur in the right direction and, well, if I can’t make the difference, does it matter? (yes, yes it does ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

I’m still very happy with the idea, which I find whimsical and funny. Adding the panning was definitely a good idea because it adds to the story-telling. I was also quite happy with the idea of using the stem of the leaf as a “navigating stick” of some sort!

The complete Scavenger album is available here: the Leaf album.